Preseason is not a time to try to score 40 points and win by 20, though that would of course be welcome. Preseason is a time to evaluate and try to figure out what you have on your roster, and the Falcons surely have a better idea of that after one game. That’s good, because they have to cut down to an 85 man roster soon enough.
What is clear is that Atlanta has plenty of work to do on their offensive line and still need to work to build depth and confidence in the back half of their defense. What is also clear is that they have some truly interesting pass rushers and playmakers on offense, including both Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder at quarterback. They also have a preseason win, something we don’t see all that often, as they held off a late Detroit charge to emerge with a 27-23 win.
Below, you’ll find quarter-by-quarter and drive-by-drive summaries, delivered to you by a man who watched it all. Don’t thank me, just doing my job.
Bradley Pinion kicked us off after the Lions elected to receive. Detroit had fits and starts, but a big hole in the middle of the defense picked them up one first down and Jamaal Williams ran it effectively to almost get another one. From there, they had nothing but luck, encountering soft run defense and holes for Amon-Ra St. Brown to run free in, punching it in via De’Andre Swift a short time later. The end result was a five minute-plus drive, and it was 7-0 Lions.
Atlanta looked a little shaky out of the gate—there was a missed block here, a penalty there—but Marcus Mariota kept them moving. He scrambled effectively, hooked up with Drake London for a big gain, and Qadree Ollison did the rest with a few nice runs of his own. After a low Mariota pass was rescued by Kha’Darel Hodge inside the five, Mariota took it in himself and we had ourselves at 7-7 tie game.
The Lions immediately pulled the starters, which means we got Tim Boyle. A quick handoff and a pass later, we were done with the quarter.
Boyle and company kept it moving, with Boyle connecting on a deep pass thanks to poor coverage by a combination of Mike Ford and Darren Hall that put Detroit in an excellent position. The drive fizzled out from there, but the damage was done, and Austin Seibert knocked one home to make it 10-7 Detroit.
Next up, Desmond Ridder. The rookie quarterback came out dealing, finding Cameron Batson for a quick first down and nailing a pass to Damiere Byrd for another, but then a couple of short runs set the Falcons up with 3rd and 7. Ridder’s pass to Geronimo Allison was not completed—Allison couldn’t come up with it—and the Falcons had to punt.
Tim Boyle got the ball back and overthrew a receiver right away. After a short run, the Falcons brought pressure on third down and that was that. Punt.
The Falcons didn’t get anything going on the ground—the run blocking was pretty bad—and then Desmond Ridder threw a pick on third down. A roughing the passer call erased that, and the Falcons nearly got a touchdown shortly thereafter when Desmond Ridder threw a solid ball to Parker Hesse in the end zone, but unfortunately Hesse couldn’t get it. A pass to Geronimo Allison got them close on the next play, and then Ridder was able to connect with Hesse for a touchdown. 14-10 Falcons.
Boyle and company got it moving again before Ta’Quon Graham managed a strip sack and it was called back due to penalty. The Lions rallied to keep pushing, and ultimately Boyle hit Devin Funchess after the wide receiver-turned-tight end beat Cornell Armstrong in the end zone. 17-14 Lions.
Ridder got his chance to run a two minute drill and did pretty well, connecting on a few passes before the offense slowed down in the red zone. A pass to Auden Tate put the team in field goal range and Koo obliged a couple of players later, making it a 17-17 tie going into halftime.
The Falcons got the ball back. Tyler Allgeier showed some pop and speed in picking up a couple of nice gains, and Ridder connected with Frank Darby for a first down. Unfortunately, a deep shot to Feleipe Franks didn’t quite connect and pressure got home on Ridder on the next play, even though he did an admirable job avoiding it at first. Punt.
The Lions couldn’t get a lot going, and their faint hopes were ended by Dee Alford, who showed great instincts and good hands on an interception that killed Detroit’s drive. Huge play for Alford, who has hopes of making this roster and making an impact. Turnover.
Unfortunately, the next drive didn’t go anywhere. A nice Tyler Allgeier carry gave way to a missed Ryan Neuzil snapped—remember, he’s converting to center—and the Falcons settled for a field goal. Inevitably, Younghoe Koo hit it and the Falcons had a 20-17 lead.
The Falcons defense did not exactly roll around in a pile of glory on the following drive, allowing David Blough and company to get the job done. They were able to fight through some pressure and ugly pass protection to take advantage of a shaky Falcons secondary, pushing their way down inside the ten yard line before the Falcons defense ultimately stalled them out. A Riley Patterson field goal made it 20-20.
Ridder had back-to-back solid throws that were ultimately dropped, which probably gives him some inkling of how this whole Falcons quarterbacking thing is going to go. Punt.
Again, the Falcons struggled defensively against the Lions, a bad omen for their backups. David Blough was able to scramble for major gains more than once, which is deeply unfortunate, and the Lions pushed their way deep into Falcons territory. They still stalled out (thanks, Lafayette Pitts) short of the end zone, having to settle for trying to convert on fourth down. Unfortunately, somebody named Pimpleton caught a pass to convert, and Atlanta’s red zone defense was set to be sorely tested. A stop from the third team defense meant the Lions had to settle for the field goal try, and they made it, making it 23-20 Detroit.
The Falcons stalled out relatively quickly and had to punt, with Arthur Smith trusting his defense. Punt.
Timothy Horne made that decision look smart, recovering the fumble, which gave the Falcons one more chance to win (an ultimately meaningless) preseason game. While they ultimately ground their way all the way to a fourth down and long, a Desmond Ridder desperation pass to Jared Bernhardt that will live in Falcons lore forever sealed the rare preseason win for the Falcons. 27-23, good guys.
The Lions tried but could not overcome this insurmountable four point lead, and the Falcons had a rare preseason win. Bask in it tonight, everyone.